Sunday, August 25, 2013

Phone Home - home phone alternatives

Even old farts like me realize that the world of phone service has changed substantially from the old days when there was typically one choice.  For many, particularly single individuals, a single cell phone may do it for both your home and mobile phone.  There are many reasons for some of us to cling to the traditional home phone.  Some families do not provide cell phones to every family member or for others, a cell phone may not provide the coverage that you want such as having a phone in a bedroom or kitchen, etc. so that you can easily put another family member on the phone rather than being stuck on a single cell phone.  Also, there are some of us who still have issues remembering to turn on a cell phone, charge a cell phone or bring the cell phone with us.

This post will discuss home phone alternatives for homes having a high speed internet connection, specifically, cable, DSL or FIOS.  Many folks who have one of these high speed internet connections have been exposed to "internet" phone service as part of a bundle.  The trend I am seeing is that many of these "bundle" deals have turned out to really be "promotional" time limited deals and if you are like me, you may be seeing the cost of your services (phone, TV and internet) climbing much higher than that teaser bundle rate that you were initially lured into.  I want to emphasize that the comments and opinions reflected in this post are based upon my impression and interpretation of a wide sampling of online reviews and in some cases experiences of co-workers.  I would encourage everyone to do their due diligence to use the internet search of your choice to research further before making a purchase.  These options are all available through Amazon and I have grouped these products so that you can quickly review the offerings.

Magicjack or Magicjack plus - Realistically, for most user's this will be the Magicjack plus which permits you to use your phone without the need of your computer.  The initial cost is about $60. which includes 6 months to 1 year of service (depending on what you buy).  Thereafter, the annual rate is about $30 or you can opt for a 5 year plan for additional savings.  Magicjack was one of the early pioneers of using Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to provide phone service to the masses.  Being first cuts both ways as they definitely have great name recognition, but also suffer from a reputation of extremely poor (some say no) customer service.  The complaint that I have heard most repeated that most concerns me is the difficulty of terminating service.  Nothing annoys me more than having to fight with a company to cancel a service.

NetTalk - The entry point for NetTalk is around $50 which includes one year of service.  Thereafter, the cost of yearly service is $30.  What I really like about NetTalk is its simplicity.  I can easily understand, $30 for 1 year - no trying to figure out or guess about what the tax will be as with Ooma.  Additionally, I have 2 co-workers who have this product and are satisfied with it.  Overall, my impression of the customer reviews that I read would place NetTalk slightly higher than Magicjack, but lower than Ooma.

Ooma - The "Cadillac" of VOIP alternatives with noticeably higher reviews regarding satisfaction and customer service; however, its cost is slightly higher at about $125 and up to get started and a wide range of rate options.  Ooma is often the choice for small businesses or those seeking high reliability.

Obi - Obi is an interesting option in that it enables users to use their Google Voice account with their home phone.  The start up cost of the equipment is around $40.  Currently, Google Voice is free in the United States.  I have read some speculation that it may stay free, but I emphasize that it is not guaranteed and as stated should only be regarded as speculation.  While cost is the obvious advantage to choosing Obi, the notable disadvantage is the complexity of configuring the service.  I would not consider the configuration "mind blowing," but you do need to be prepared to do a few internet searches and will need to do some online tweaking of Google Voice settings.  I have started using an iPad app, Talkatone, with Google Voice to make free calls on my iPad.  As a result, I am somewhat concerned as to whether an Obi connection may impact my Talkatone configuration.  I have read some online comments indicating that it may.

What about Fax?  If you require a Fax, you should carefully research each of these offerings.  Some will advertise that their service is compatible with a fax and some will require enhanced equipment.  Also note that sometimes configuring a fax may add an extra layer of complication with some reviewers reporting the need to tweak settings.  Due to the wide array of configuration and possible situations, I will not elaborate further here but am noting that it may be necessary to do some additional research if adding a fax.

If you find that your "bundle" is mushrooming in cost, it might be time to "unbundle".  As discussed within this post, pruning your home phone to a new service may be an easy first step toward savings.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are appreciated. Please note that comments are moderated, but will generally be published if on topic and free from excessive profanity or hostility.